Four 2021 MLB Draft Classes We're Excited After Day Two
There are still 10 more rounds to go Tuesday, but we were too excited to talk more about several draft classes after rounds 1-10 wrapped Monday afternoon.
While we’ll need years to see how the draft pans out for every team, it’s never too early to get excited about a few teams who stood out to us right away.
Here are four draft classes we’re excited about at the halfway point.
1.17 — SS Matt McLain (10)
1s.30 — OF Jay Allen (38)
1s.35 — C Mat Nelson (51)
2.53 — LHP Andrew Abbott (67)
3.89 — SS Jose Torres (92)
4.119 — 1B Ruben Ibarra (325)
5.150 — RHP Thomas Farr (109)
6.180 — OF Justice Thompson (96)
7.210 — RHP Kevin Abel (133)
8.240 — RHP Hunter Parks (396)
9.270 — OF Jack Rogers (NR)
10.300 — RHP Donovan Benoit (NR)
Perhaps it's unsurprising for a team with as many picks as the Reds to make our list of “excitable” draft classes, but I loved seeing the up-the-middle bats the Reds took on Day One, and felt they got several impressive values on Day Two.
McLain was among the top college bats in a class that was extremely light after the top four or so and between him and Jose Torres, the Reds also came away with two of only four college shortstops who were ranked among the top 100. In McLain the Reds have a potentially plus hitter with plus speed and arm strength to go with it, while Torres was routinely cited as the best defensive shortstop in the class.
The Reds also scooped up three of the highest-rising players in this year’s class, with Mat Nelson, Andrew Abbott and Justice Thompson. With Nelson the Reds have a catcher who pairs impressive defensive tools with a bat that took a massive jump in the power department, and Abbott showed a real three-pitch mix and proved he could start or relieve. Thompson had the tool set to go among the top 100 picks, as did righthanders Thomas Farr and Kevin Abel.
It was a college-heavy class for the Reds this year, but their lone high school prospect—Jay Allen—is a dynamic, multi-sport athlete who showed impressive hitting ability this spring and has a chance to play all three outfield positions, with sparkplug caliber speed.
The Reds used their pool money to get a top-10 talent at No. 17, but didn’t appear to do so at the expense of their later picks.
1.16 — SS Kahlil Watson (6)
1s.31 — C Joe Mack (22)
2.52 — SS Cody Morissette (46)
3.88 — SS Jordan McCants (89)
4.118 — OF Tanner Allen (168)
5.149 — OF Brady Allen (178)
6.179 — C Sam Praytor (NR)
7.209 — RHP Gabe Bierman (459)
8.239 — LHP Patrick Monteverde (467)
9.269 — RHP Jake Schrand (NR)
10.299 — RHP Hunter Perdue (NR)
On Monday we wrote that getting Kahlil Watson—the No. 6 player in the class and tool for tool one of the most exciting players to be found—with the 16th pick in the draft was perhaps the steal of night one. After a full 10 rounds, I still think it’s probably the steal of the draft.
The Marlins didn’t stop there.
They grabbed another first-round talent in Joe Mack at No. 31 and then stockpiled several bat-first college position players through six rounds.
Morissette has a pure, fluid swing from the left side and while he was drafted as a shortstop, might fit best at either second or third in the long run. Still, the bat is exciting and he could tap into more power as he gains strength.
Outfielders Tanner Allen and Brady Allen were two of the better performers in the SEC this spring, with Tanner leading the conference in batting and Brady bringing above-average power to the table. Neither are super toolsy, but they bring potent bats despite being different types of hitters and even if they have to play a corner, could hit enough to profile nicely.
The Marlins' third-round pick, shortstop Jordan McCants, has everyday shortstop potential thanks to standout glove work, plus running ability, bat-to-ball skills and solid zone recognition in the box.
There are a few interesting arms towards the back of the draft, but if you are a sucker for hitters this could be the class for you.
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1.1 — C Henry Davis (4)
2.37 — LHP Anthony Solometo (28)
2s.64 — OF Lonnie White (32)
3.72 — RHP Bubba Chandler (20)
4.102 — RHP Owen Kellington (386)
5.133 — 3B Jackson Glenn (449)
6.163 — SS Mike Jarvis (NR)
7.193 — C Wyatt Hendrie (270)
8.223 — RHP Sean Sullivan (138)
9.253 — OF Luke Brown (NR)
10.283 — RHP Justin Meis (NR)
Shocker! We like the team who had the first overall pick and the biggest bonus pool—who would have thought?
While we weren’t too happy with Pittsburgh for busting our final mock draft immediately, we appreciated that they landed one of the top five players in the class and then landed three additional players who are legitimate first-round talents (or just barely missing in the case of Lonnie White) with their picks through the third round.
Sure, most of the class from rounds 4-10 is going to help pay for Pittsburgh’s top-heavy draft, but we like Sean Sullivan’s advanced four-pitch mix and feel on the mound and it’s cool to see Owen Kellington (a projectable righty with a low-90s fastball now and a potential above-average curve) become the highest-drafted player out of Vermont since righthander Kirk McCaskill in 1982. Kellington is now one of just two players to ever get selected among the top four rounds from the state.
But let’s get back to the top of the draft. While Davis wasn’t one of the players who was frequently mentioned as the top player in the class, it’s worth reiterating that the 2021 class never had an established, consensus top player and Davis was solidly inside the top five and the clear-cut top college position player in the class. He might not have the most upside, but try finding another player who has his combination of bat-to-ball skills and impact—you’re going to struggle to find a hitter of that category from the college ranks this year.
After that, the Pirates landed a trio of exceptional upside with Solometo, White and Chandler—who is arguably the most athletic player in the class. Solometo has a funky arm action that creates uncomfortable at-bats but advanced control considering the operation with a fastball that gets into the mid 90s and a slider that flashes plus. White is an explosive athlete and strong hitter who could grow into plus power potential, with a chance to play center or provide above-average defense in an outfield corner. You could find scouts who thought Chandler was the most exciting prep pitching prospect, and he’s got a pair of pitches that get 70-grade projections in his fastball and curveball—though there’s some refining to be had that should come now that he’ll focus exclusively on baseball.
1.3 — RHP Jackson Jobe (10)
1s.32 — RHP Ty Madden (12)
2.39 — SS Izaac Pacheco (36)
3.74 — RHP Dylan Smith (56)
4.104 — RHP Tyler Mattison (362)
5.135 — RHP Tanner Kohlhepp (NR)
6.165 — OF Austin Murr (315)
7.195 — LHP Brant Hurter (125)
8.225 — RHP Jordan Marks (149)
9.255 — RHP Garrett Burhenn (304)
10.285 — OF Austin Schultz (392)
If the Marlins had the hitting draft, the Tigers certainly had the pitching draft—even though there were plenty of teams like the Angels, Dodgers, Giants and Indians who were extremely pitching heavy.
It seemed impossible to imagine one team winding up with two of the top four pitching prospects in the class, but that’s exactly what happened with Detroit after Ty Madden somehow fell out of the first round entirely. JJ Cooper recently wrote about why Madden’s pitch characteristics could make him undervalued in today’s game, but we still viewed him as the third-best college arm in the class after the Vanderbilt duo of Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker and a top-12 talent overall.
Pitch for pitch, Jobe is the most talented arm in the class, and while the prep demographic is inherently risky, he seems like the best high school righthander since Hunter Greene in 2017—and was picked accordingly. Madden has a power arm with a plus fastball/slider combination and the strikes and frame to be a workhorse starter, and we like a lot of the later arms as well.
Dylan Smith was Alabama’s ace this spring and posted sterling strikeout (10.3 K/9) and walk (1.8 BB/9) rates this year with a four-pitch mix. He has a fast arm and a lean frame that suggests more stuff to come as he fills out and the natural strike-throwing ability to control it and stick in a starting role.
The best pure strike thrower of this class might be the team’s eighth-round selection, Jordan Marks, who we wrote about when looking at 2021 control artists. Marks has a career walk rate of 2.0 BB/9 and is a legitimate plus control arm who sits in the low 90s but has touched 97-98 mph this spring. It’s easy to see him taking a big step forward if that velocity continues to tick up.
Tyler Mattison took a step forward with his control and velocity this spring, Tanner Kohlhepp has touched 97 as a multi-inning relief ace for Notre Dame, Brant Hurter creates uncomfortable at-bats with his long frame and lower arm slot and Garrett Burhenn has touched 97 mph this spring with a solid history of throwing strikes and a four-pitch mix.
No matter what kind of pitcher you like, there’s bound to be one that suits your style in this Tigers' draft class.
Oh, and we didn’t even mention Izaac Pacheco, who has big time raw power from the left side and a chance for above-average defense at the hot corner.